Ever since my trip to the new Everything But Water boutique in the Galleria, I have been obsessed with all things beachwear. It didn't hurt that the experience of shopping for a new suit was so incredibly positive; it has me thinking about a serious expansion of my resort/swimwear wardrobe. We live in Houston, after all, where so much of the year is spent poolside or on the beach in Galveston -- it makes sense to invest in quality pieces that will last for a few seasons. Given the effects of sun, salt and chlorine on delicate fabrics, it's also important to properly care for these pieces so you get your money's worth.
Swimwear and resort wear are as important from a fashion perspective as haute couture, perhaps even more so, since they tend to be more affordable than high-fashion or even ready-to-wear pieces. While it might be tempting to keep on buying one thirty-dollar suit every year at Target just to toss it in September, consider that with preventative care and proper washing, a high-end suit will likely last you more than one summer.
Choosing a Swimsuit
Swimsuit buying guides are a dime-a-dozen this time of year. Every magazine is running some sort of "best suit for your body type" story. If you need help, try one of these: • Best Swimsuits for Your Body Type (Shape.com) • The Right Swimsuit for Your Body Type (Fitness Magazine) • How to Find Your Body's Sexiest Swimsuit (Glamour) • The Best Swimsuits for Your Body Type (Cosmopolitan) • Perfect Fit Guide (Everything But Water)
Of course, some of us don't fit neatly into just one category. (Guess who's petite and pear-shaped and small-busted and has a bit of a belly!) These are just guides, so along with a general shape in mind, be sure you are armed with the most important swimsuit-buying tool: a healthy attitude. The only thing more depressing than shopping for jeans is shopping for swimsuits, but it's important to go easy on yourself when it's you versus the dressing-room mirror.
Swimsuit trends tend to follow the same trends we see elsewhere in the fashion world, with a few modifications. In terms of styles, you can't really overhaul the basic shape of a bikini, one-piece or tankini -- they are what they are. Swimsuit trends present themselves through color, pattern and embellishment, as well as "genre," i.e., "military-inspired" or "rock-and-roll-inspired."
The hot colors for spring and summer 2012 are also the hot colors for swimwear: Think pastels, along with shades that marry neons with sherbets. Mint greens, sherbet orange and pink, and rich, bright blues are everywhere.
In terms of styles, one-shouldered one-pieces and bikini tops are making a big splash this season. One of the most eye-grabbing one-shoulder bikini styles is from Becca by Rebecca Virtue; "Between the Lines" combines bright, eye-catching sherbet/neons with color blocking and the one-shoulder top. If the string-tie bottom is too skimpy, you can try the banded hipster instead.
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Vintage inspiration is also being seen in beach and swimwear. One of the major benefits of shopping swimwear with a vintage feel is coverage -- it's much easier to find styles that have more generous coverage. Don't confuse "more fabric" with "less sex appeal," though; vintage inspiration can be interpreted in more skimpy styles with the use of classic patterns, like gingham and florals, or embellishments like ruffles and buttons. Pairing a high-waisted bottom or a halter top with a sexier companion piece allows you the best of both worlds, modern and vintage. If you're looking for the cutest vintage-inspired swimsuits (or vintage-inspired anything else), my go-to is Shabby Apple.
So you've decided to spend $70, or $90, or $130 on a new swimsuit -- are you just going to throw it in the washing machine? The answer is no. In fact, not only do you need to care for the garments differently after you wear them, you need to care for them differently starting the minute you bring them home. For $8 I picked up Everything But Water's Swimsuit Protector, which protects against salt and chlorine damage. It comes in a 4.2 ounce bottle, and you simply soak your suit in two capfuls plus one gallon of water before wearing, and reapply after every few wearings. EBW also makes a Swimsuit Cleaner, but I think any gentle, hand-washing detergent (Woolite, or any dye/scent-free detergent) will do. It's important to wash and rinse your swimsuit by hand after every wearing, squeezing (not twisting out) excess water, and hanging to dry. Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER put your swimsuit in the dryer.